Tag Archives: dreams

How Dreams Help Us Overcome Loss, Benefits of Sharing Dreams with Spouse

In the last post, “Helping your Partner Heal from Loss or Trauma,” I provided some practical tips from the book Healing Together.  Here I’d like to share how dreams affect us after trauma, and how we can use dreams to help us heal.

Co-authors Suzanne Phillips and Dianne Kane include interesting information on the importance of dreams in overcoming trauma. They report researchers used to think dreams protected our ability to sleep, but now they surmise sleep protects our ability to dream. In other words, dreams are of crucial importance to our wellbeing, and there appears to be a neurological need for our bodies to dream. Sharing your dreams with your partner can build intimacy, particularly after a trauma.

Even if you haven’t experienced loss, sharing dreams with your partner can enhance intimacy. Sometimes hearing what your partner is dreaming can be somewhat bewildering. But it’s a sign of intimacy if your partner is willing to share these inner secrets, and visa versa. I most enjoy dreams where I’m flying unassisted over the trees, but my most common dreams are those in which I am unprepared or lost. I often know the meaning of my dreams, but sometimes explaining them to my husband gives me insight.

“Researchers think that REM sleep and dreams play an integral role in helping us to regulate our emotions, consolidate memories, process information, and adapt to stress (Fossage 1997). It is therefore not surprising that dreams play a significant role in the processing of and recovery from trauma,” say Phillips and Kane.

Dreams also help us solve problems, learn, and develop our identity. The authors say dreams can even restore psychological functioning by allowing us to have thoughts that can’t be verbalized, and helping us move to a new state of self-awareness. Sharing dreams offers the following benefits:

  • If partners have become distant, a dream can foster more sharing by serving as a point of reference.
  • Sharing positive dreams provides a shared positive experience.
  • Talking about positive or neutral dreams may lower anxiety and foster dialogue for working together to detoxify nightmares, flashbacks, and other intrusive trauma symptoms.
  • Sharing can build trust.
  • If someone is working through feelings of trauma in dreams, then sharing them can help move those feelings to a different level of consciousness, often giving insight. It’s a way to help process when your mind is trying to work through confusing feelings.

Keep a pen and paper by the bed to record any dream fragments as you awaken—either in the morning or during the night, say the authors. Alarm clocks can jar us awake so abruptly that we cannot remember our dreams. So, if possible, wake up on your own. Some individuals will be unable to remember their dreams after a trauma, but will begin to recall them as they become more psychologically ready to remember.

Even for those who cannot remember their dreams, the authors suggest sharing a daydream, a song lyric or movie scene, a flashback, a diary entry, or other private thought that might help your partner connect and get insight.

As many as 90 percent of people have nightmares after experiencing a trauma. Nightmares can also be triggered by anniversaries of traumatic events, or they may recur when experiencing a different kind of loss later in life. Sometimes professional help is needed to deal with traumatic memories or nightmares. Professionals can often help individuals change the dream to have a better outcome, or empower the patient to handle things within the dream in a way that is beneficial.

Professional Help
Most couples who experience a loss will not require professional help. However, couples who have attempted strategies to reconnect after a loss, such as those outlined in the book, but who struggle to re-establish intimacy in their relationship, may find professional assistance to be helpful in their marriage. Of course, any individual who is struggling to move past a trauma or experiencing troubling nightmares can also benefit. Every person is affected differently by a trauma or loss, and some are just harder hit. Those with PTSD may require some professional help to move on successfully in their lives. Many couples can benefit from a marriage counselor’s guidance on how to reconnect with their spouse after a major crisis.

If you are hoping to have insurance cover the cost of therapy, call your insurance provider to ask for names of approved therapists. Your primary care physician may also help direct you or refer you. Organizations that may assist with referrals in your area include the National Center for PTSD or the American Psychological Association. My resource page also has helpful information on finding a marital therapist.

Personally, I have found dreams to be extremely helpful in overcoming loss. Do you pay attention to your dreams? Do you share your dreams? Do you find your dreams become troubling during difficult times? Do you remember your dreams? What’s your most common dream?

Photo Credit: ©Leticia Wilson/PhotoXpress.com

Help Your Spouse Achieve Lifelong Dreams

I have a few close friends and family members who are all about their “bucket lists,” the lists of things they want to experience or accomplish during their lives. For instance, my brother’s list inspired him to climb Mount Rainier and to go deep-sea diving in remote locations.  This week, I was reading the uplifting blog The Generous Wife. She suggested as couples we talk regularly about our bucket lists and look for ways to help our spouses achieve their wishes. It’s a fantastic suggestion.

I like this idea for multiple reasons. First, discussing your dreams with your spouse increases intimacy and keeps you focused on positive aspects of your life. Second, participating in activities outside of your norm builds excitement and passion for yourself and for your marriage. And third, helping your spouse achieve his or her dreams often causes your spouse to have increased gratitude toward you. And gratitude has been shown to increase connection and bonds.

I must admit I’m not much of a true adventurer. I’d much rather sit on a beach than climb a treacherous mountain. However, I have spectacular memories of traveling to Hawaii, Bermuda, Ireland, France, Italy, Spain, Monaco, Mexico—and yes, even a memorable trip to Canada during one of their worst snowstorms—with my husband. All that travel came to a screeching halt when our two children were welcomed into our lives. I have more destinations in mind when our kids are a bit older. But travel isn’t required; many adventures can be found without leaving your hometown.

I have a great friend who encouraged her husband to fulfill his dream of running a hot-air balloon business, while maintaining his full-time job as a pilot. I’ve never heard her complain of the time it takes away from their large family. I have other friends who have supported their spouse’s dreams to become an entrepreneur or a full-time parent. Two married friends have decided to visit every national park in the country. Perhaps you have always wanted to take music or dance lessons, fly an airplane, learn a new language or write a book. Share your goals with your spouse, and discuss how your dreams could become a reality.

Believing in one another and in a positive vision for your union is part of the magic of marriage. How many divorces could be prevented if spouses felt their partner cared as much about their dreams and goals as they do?

What fun things are on your bucket list? What obstacles stand in your way—time, money, self-doubt, an aging body? Do you know what’s on your partner’s list?

If you haven’t had a chance yet, please spend one minute to take this survey  answering five quick questions. Your confidential responses will help me immensely. Thanks!

Do You Believe in Your Marriage?

I once posed a question about whether hard work or talent achieves the greatest success. Someone answered that belief in oneself is more important than either. Do you agree?

Many people overcome extreme obstacles because they believe they can achieve their dreams. When others give up on them, they work harder. Sometimes it may not be your own belief, but someone else’s belief and encouragement that reminds us of a  goal and makes us think it is possible to achieve.

When my son was six, he wrote a song that said, “If you believe in me, I will believe in you.” He posted a note in my office that has been there ever since (see photo) and serves as a sweet reminder that I am not alone in the world. The power of others’ encouragement can be strong.

Walt Disney is an example of someone who was talented and worked hard, but he started with nothing and overcame a great deal of obstacles. His personal vision was so clear and his belief so strong that even when his ideas and employees were stolen away, he simply started again and created a larger dream.

For many people, faith that they are a part of a larger purpose (a Kingdom purpose) also keeps them from giving up; they have a clear vision of success and feel their efforts are divinely guided.

We can personally benefit from a belief in our ability to reach goals, but don’t stop there. Our marriage relationships need to have the same vision and goals. What is your vision as a couple for your marriage and for your family? What goals are you trying to achieve within your marriage? Do you and your spouse have an unyielding belief that you can stand strong together no matter what happens in your life? Do you believe in and support your spouse? Do you believe your marriage will succeed?

As the year winds down and you consider making goals for the next year, don’t put your marriage last on the list. Just like career and life goals, create goals for your important relationships. Invest time and effort in them. And above all, believe in their long-term success.

What do you think is the greatest contributor to success? And to your marital success?

How Can Married Couples Overcome Gridlock?

We’ve covered strategies to deal with everyday marital conflict in other articles, but there are times when couples appear to be deadlocked on some important issue. The argument may spill out into other issues, and the couple may feel and express negativity, contempt and sadness toward one another.

According to research by Dr. John Gottman, these distressed couples are “gridlocked” and are facing perpetual, recurring issues. It may be coming out as arguments about how to spend their time or money. However, the arguing couple may be experiencing something deeper–conflicting values and dreams for their future. Basically, behind each position is someone with a dream for his or life as an individual and as a couple. When those dreams and values conflict, people tend to dig in their heels.

Gottman has used a strategy in his research with distressed couples called the “dreams-within-conflict” intervention, which helps the couples to examine together the underlying histories, philosophies, and life dreams of each person/position. The goal is for spouses to see the dreams behind their spouse’s position, and to find a way to honor one another’s dreams within the conflict. (1)

So, if you’re butting heads on the same topics again and again, it may be time for you to look at little deeper. Talk about your dreams for the future and how they can be compatible.

Think about frequent arguments you and your spouse may have. A compassionate approach toward one another may help you find a successful resolution, or at least a compromise. Do you and your spouse have similar goals and dreams? If so, that may bode well for your future. If not, look for more common ground and shared goals to work toward together.

(1) The Marriage Clinic, by John Gottman, www.gottman.com